Moving to action – addressing inclusion and diversity in volunteering

In our latest AVM Bitesize, we chat with Dr Helen Timbrell and Hadji Singh about Helen’s recent research: “What the bloody hell are you doing here?” A comparative study of the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and White volunteers in four organisations

Improving the diversity of our volunteers and creating more inclusive, welcoming environments is top of the wish list for many volunteer managers. But how do we actually do this? How do we move from knowing there’s an issue around the lack of diversity in volunteering, as established frequently and most recently in NCVO’s Time Well Spent Report, to moving to purposeful action?

Focusing on experiences 

“Some White volunteers were simply unable to conceive that the experience of a volunteer could be impacted by ethnicity or that their own experience would not be shared by others of a different ethnicity.” (report extract, page 16)

To move to a place of sustained, purposeful action we need to understand more about the actual experiences of volunteers within organisations. What is actually going on for people? Knowing this helps us to clarify where things are going well, so we can do more of that, and where things are tricky, so we can invest in targeted improvements. ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here?’, Dr Helen Timbrell’s recent research, which compares the experiences of BAME volunteers and White volunteers in four organisations, does exactly that.

In our latest AVM BiteSize, which we’re making available to all, we chat with Helen, and Hadji Singh, about the research. Hadji is a volunteer with the Witness Service at Citizens Advice, one of the organisations who participated in the research. To get a copy of the report, do email Helen at [email protected].

Where next?

“Organisations need clear strategies for their work on equality, diversity and inclusion….those strategies must specifically focus on the role volunteering, volunteer managers and volunteers play in creating inclusive organisations”  (report extract, page 35)

Have a listen or read the BiteSize transcript, and/or read the report and then let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

This is important work helping all those involving volunteers to better understand where we could make a difference to developing an inclusive environment for BAME volunteers to feel they have a place and a voice.

At AVM we are acutely aware of the lack of visible diversity at our events and from those on behalf of our members and would value the opportunity to address this. From a practising volunteer manager’s point of view, we do try to ask what we are doing that’s adding to the problem, and this is an important question for the profession to grapple with – where is volunteer management itself getting in the way?

This is a scary question but with an open mind and an assumption of positive intent (if sometimes unintentionally clumsy practise), we believe we could begin to work in a more inclusive way where those who are seldom heard from can have a voice. This is, after all, the power and strength of volunteering.

There is an obvious role for organisational leaders to create the environment for honest dialogue and reflection, and to introduce measures that drive results. As Helen talks about in the BiteSize, there is also a clear need for us, as volunteer managers, to build our own knowledge and skills around diversity and inclusion, in order to then support volunteers.

At the same time, as Hadji says, there is also a real fear of getting it wrong. Learning through doing is crucial here, and feeling a bit scared is usually a positive sign that you’re learning something new, but if people are too scared, and lack support, that’s not going to help.  So how might we, as a community of volunteer managers, support each other on our journey to develop purposeful inclusive practices that make a meaningful difference? As the report highlights, to be successful this will need to be focused on action, not just more discussion!  If you’re interested in joining in this important work please do get in touch [email protected].

BiteSize with Helen Timbrell and Hadji Singh

Themes from Covid-19 networking calls

AVM has hosted a number of networking calls to discuss and share how people working with volunteers are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. As similar themes and suggestions have emerged across all calls, we have pulled these together with  links and resources generously shared by those on the calls. We have loosely grouped these into parts of the volunteer journey.

If you would like to add resources or suggestions to this resource, please get in touch.

Please check back for updated information.

Page last updated: 17 April 2020. 

Supporting volunteers during lockdown

This was a big concern across all calls, particularly where a volunteer manager was, or was expecting to be, furloughed.

With staff capacity also reduced, there is a need to balance volunteer recruitment against supporting existing volunteers. In some cases organisations are not recruiting because they don’t have the capacity to do both. Volunteer supervision can still take place, by phone or online, one-on-one, or in a group. And if not in place, volunteers can provide peer support to other volunteers as a new role.

Some organisations have new ‘Home Volunteering’ policies, and have updated safeguarding policies and procedures to reflect the change in supervision (where remote/ virtual volunteer roles are new).

Organisations are using a mix of platforms to keep in touch with volunteers, including Workplace by Facebook, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Skype. On a previous call, one organisation shared they had a conference call service from their local phone coop. A number of organisations are setting up volunteers with organisational Zoom/ Teams/ Skype accounts. Others are providing volunteers with support to set up their own. Drop in online ‘coffee mornings’ were frequently mentioned. 

It was suggested that using existing platforms people are familiar with will help, though one organisation mentioned that a volunteer had developed how to guides for using new tech that have been shared with volunteers, and another is doing short online surgeries for tech support. Make them easy to read with plenty of screenshots.

Protecting our privacy when on video calls came up a few times, with suggestions of a guide for volunteers – and staff – who are not used to this. Suggestions of things to include in a guide: making sure other household members know you’re on a call (children, half-dressed partners, others who would not like to be in shot); making sure you don’t have personal stuff in the background you wouldn’t be happy for colleagues, clients or other volunteers to see; virtual backgrounds (don’t work for everyone); ensuring you understand and use the privacy features for the system you are using; how to change your name on the screen; reminding people who phone in that their phone number will be visible.

For volunteers who are not comfortable with online communication methods, The Phone Coop offer a conference call system. Or you could arrange regular phone calls as a way to connect, which can be done by staff or set up volunteer buddies.

Some expressed concerns about setting up WhatsApp groups for volunteers, where phone numbers are then shared. Making it optional and ensuring that anyone who signs up knows their phone number will be shared with the rest of the group should mitigate this, but speak to your Data Protection Officer if you have concerns. This can also apply for Facebook groups for volunteers.

Blurt have some useful resources about mental health and well-being during the pandemic on their website.

Some of you are giving existing volunteers the opportunity to pause their volunteering, not putting pressure on people to feel that they need to continue as normal – because nothing is normal right now. 

Recruitment,induction and training

Those of you still recruiting are looking to hold video or phone interviews. There is some nervousness – not necessarily from volunteer managers – about safeguarding when moving to online recruitment and not meeting volunteers face-to-face, particularly in roles which are supporting vulnerable people. Key to addressing this is not to drop your standards when recruiting on video, and don’t settle for just telephone: video allows you to see the person you’re interviewing. Some of you have been reinforcing with colleagues that our frameworks and standards don’t disappear overnight and that they do know what they need to do, but we’re able to help them do it differently if they need it.

If you need documents signed, there are various websites or apps that let you do that. Docusign was recommended, but there are others available. 

There is a fast track DBS service only for Covid-19 eligible roles in England and Wales. You can check role eligibility on the DBS website.

Disclosure Scotland are prioritising checks for coronavirus response roles needed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Details about Access NI checks can be found on their website.

DBS have amended their ID checking guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of you are rolling new training to volunteers around empathy, having open conversations, as well as around boundaries.

Training is being delivered online, with webinars and other online modules. In some cases this is only for existing volunteers, but some are developing online training for new volunteers.

If you’re not recruiting, it was suggested that signposting potential volunteers to places where they can volunteer at the moment, but also keeping them on a list to get back to once you start recruiting again. 

Moving volunteering opportunities virtually

Many people on the calls you reported that volunteering was stopping while social distancing is in place. Where possible, people are moving roles virtually, or redeploying volunteers into roles that can be done from home. Some organisations are still recruiting. Charities providing direct support to individuals are seeing an increasing number of people needing support, but additionally volunteers may need more support.

Letter writing came up fairly frequently,  particularly as a way of connecting with people who are now isolated (in some cases additional to telephone calls).

For young people in hospices/ homes, virtual storytelling (by existing volunteers) was a suggestion of a new role.

Moving befriending or mentoring to a phone-based or online service is a common theme for many. In a previous networking call, Zoom had been recommended for online befriending, as it is possible to set up the calls without sharing volunteers’ personal information. Others have developed guidelines explaining how volunteers can protect their personal information, as organisations cannot provide all volunteers with a phone.

Asking volunteers to share social media content or key messages with friends/family is an easy microvolunteering role that can be done virtually.

Asking staff and volunteers to think about what tasks could be done virtually that aren’t being done. Research was a good example, as was signposting to information in local community Facebook groups. For example, health charities might be seeing misinformation spreading about the impact of coronavirus on the health issue.

Ask volunteers and service users what they want/ need, and what could be done virtually.

Where roles involve more detailed one-to-one casework, staff should trial with service users first, to ensure volunteers are prepared for the extra emotions of the current situation, which is not specifically their role.

Making sure to complete or update role risk assessments to reflect the role is remote.

Jayne Cravens has written a blog “NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW” which is worth a read.

Volunteer recognition and Volunteers’ Week

With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, we wanted to discuss how you can continue to celebrate volunteers whilst many will still be in isolation. There was also a wider discussion about general volunteer recognition.

Awards and recognition events

  • Reviewing annual awards and ceremonies. In particular looking at how to get groups of volunteers nominated, rather than individuals, to recognise that a key driver is that volunteering is a sociable activity
  • Pre-recorded videos from trustees for award winners
  • Exploring live-streaming awards ceremonies or pre-recording winner announcements
  • Sharing stories of the winners through comms channels
  • Engaging with award winners virtually instead, through sending them t-shirts, certificates in the post – they will then take selfies and we can collage together to have a virtual group picture. 

Use of social media/online connection tools

  • Volunteer to do social media takeover
  • Social media campaigns to tag the organisation and person with their thanks for informal recognition
  • Social media to raise the profile of volunteers and showcase the diversity of volunteering.
  • Asking volunteers to send in selfie videos to share on social media
  • Using Slack or other channels to have online forum interactions and discussions around certain topics
  • Using Volunteer Management Software to engage existing volunteers online through really great content themed around sharing, thanking and recognising
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Using Facebook to encourage volunteers to connect and to share ideas about how they are managing their wellbeing. Trying to encourage volunteers to share videos, recipes, art and craft they have done.
  • Sending out emails and letters to all volunteers encouraging them to access our Volunteer ‘intranet’. We’ve had a mixed response so far but continue to monitor as the weeks go on – adding new videos/activities to the portal.

Saying thank you in different ways

  • Pre-recorded webcasts or podcasts with thank you messages to volunteers
  • Asking teams to make short videos to say why they love volunteers, and edit into a longer video.
  • Video of colleagues to talk about their work with volunteers – internal profile raising of volunteering
  • Mini thank-a-thon: getting CEO & senior staff to call or write to volunteers during Volunteers’ Week
  • Personalised video messages from the Chair or Trustees saying thank you
  • Connecting every staff member with a volunteer and getting them to sending thank you cards, messages, forget-me-not seeds, pin badges etc. in the post
  • Asking participants of vol-led groups or recipients of volunteer time to complete the sentence: “I ❤️ my volunteer because…” The vol’s were so flattered and unaware of the impact they had on individuals, easily done digitally. Montage of comments was a huge lift for vol’s! really personal feedback.

Live virtual opportunities

  • Cross fertilising knowledge with another external partner – each deliver a webinar around an area of expertise and open to volunteers in both organisations
  • Virtual meetings (using the variety of systems that have been mentioned) instead of face-to-face meetings
  • Online volunteer-based game show!
  • Using Zoom (or other) for live training volunteers in different skills.
  • Weekly virtual quiz – staff and volunteers or volunteers only. Can also help to raise funds too that our staff and volunteers are getting involved in.
    Setting up a Q&A for volunteers, on Zoom with the CEO.

Creative

  • Weekly activity/challenge – set volunteers challenge or activity once a week and ask them to post or send in photos/comments and then release these (montage) the following week
  • Running online shops where charity shops have closed. Volunteers who are creative can make items to sell online, e.g. cards, artwork, blankets.
  • Asking volunteers to check clothing banks on their daily walks.

Connecting people

  • Buddy schemes
  • Randomised coffee trials
  • Digital pen pals
  • Staff messages to volunteers – I am still here, this is my role, this is how I can support you in this time, contact me by…
  • Start a longer mentoring relationship scheme
  • Weekly Zoom coffee meet ups with volunteers.

Asking volunteers

  • Ask volunteers how they’d like you to keep in touch and what they’d like you to do, including if they are happy to have another volunteer keep in touch with them (and also ask volunteers if they’d like to provide support).
  • Also ask volunteers what needs they have while they are isolating, and signpost or help where appropriate.
  • Surveying volunteers – what are their ideas about connecting, thanking and recognising in this time. What do they want to see?

Other

  • Changing email signatures to reflect Volunteers’ Week and say thank you.
  • Reminder that Volunteers’ Week should be highlighting groups of volunteers as well as individuals.
  • Building case study portfolios – what does volunteering mean to you and how has this current crisis changed this or changed your role (collecting now and releasing gradually throughout the year)
  • Supporting groups to undertake forward planning and how to build in their own recognition and connection between their volunteers in a proactive way
  • Spotlight story every month – short blog or interview showcasing a group or a volunteer
  • Have shared a live Google Doc with ways to overcome loneliness and isolation virtually
  • Get in touch with local colleges to offer local distance learning opportunities to volunteers.

Telephone and online support – for clients and/ or volunteers

A number of calls discussed on how to move face-to-face support roles to online or telephone. As well as supporting clients/ beneficiaries, discussions also included the best ways to support volunteers who had been stood down.

Befriending Networks have useful resources for converting face-to-face befriending or mentoring to telephone support. 

Zoom was recommended as a good tool for setting up befriending or mentoring call, as they can be set up by the volunteer manager/ service manager, and protect the volunteers’ personal details. If a volunteer wants to use their personal phone (because many organisations cannot provide them with mobile phones), it was felt important to let volunteers know how to protect their phone number.

Some care homes/ hospices/ hospitals are asking people to donate redundant communication devices (smartphones, ipads) or asking people to donate redundant devices, as many residents don’t have access to them.

Longer-term impacts

There are obviously some concerns about the unknowns, and when things will become ‘normal’ again, and how this might impact volunteer retention where you’ve had to close down volunteering programmes, as well volunteer recruitment in the future.

Concerns about how to re-engage volunteers whose roles our outdoors were raised, particularly where they have been reluctant to stand down in the first place. These concerns come from how this fits with the government’s plan for ending lockdown, in order to minimise another high, second wave of the virus.

While some organisations are developing short-term volunteer roles for the duration of the pandemic crisis,others hope to continue virtual roles beyond. 

A few of you mentioned you are already seeing opportunities where you can simplify some processes in the long-term. As it has been proven this can be done in a crisis, there is a good case for reducing some red tape in processes once social distancing is over. Asking the question “what did we drop to make it easier to volunteer during the crisis” makes it easier to ask “so why do we need to still do it?”

What I actually do

At the end of every week I email all our volunteering colleagues with a round up of things they may need to do, read or should be aware of outside Diabetes UK. It’s a good way to put everything in one place and balances the inevitable asks with a little bit of levity and humour – I’m not one for taking things too seriously where we can avoid it. I think it’s generally well received, more so after I updated the format in response to calls from some volunteer managers to include “more memes please?”

This week I shared this with the team:

It got me thinking about the perception of working in volunteering versus some of the more practical elements we all encounter. Before I go any further, I should probably ‘fess up that before I started working at Diabetes UK I probably had a fairly narrow view of what volunteering meant as a career.

Let’s take a minute to run through these pictures, starting with the top row. My friends and family probably have a very specific idea about what I do based on my previous experience as an actual volunteer. My daughter used to come along and help on stalls, and when we talk about somebody needing a volunteer for something, she points at me because “that’s what Daddy does”. It’s hard to explain that your job is often so far removed from what volunteers do and in my case involves a lot of train travel and saying “can you hear me?” on Skype calls.

As for society, I’m not sure we’ll ever completely break that perception that volunteering is first or foremost standing somewhere with a collection tin. Nor do I necessarily think we should try and entirely sever that link. We might call it fundraising, but the tins and buckets don’t hold themselves or have those conversations with the public about our cause. While volunteering is so much richer than this, and if we want more people to be part of what we do, we definitely have a responsibility to talk more about all our opportunities, I still think it’s many people’s first impression of what we do.

In my role, it’s rare that I find myself in any of the situations in any of the top pictures any more. I do make sure I get out to visit volunteers and our local groups regularly, as well as attending as many of our networking events and conferences as possible, but running a stand or holding a collection tin is a much more infrequent event.

Let’s look at the bottom row. It’s wholly unfair to suggest that my (wonderful) boss thinks I only do one thing, but it’s a meme innit? I’m lucky that she understands the complexities and variation that comes with my job and supports me in all of the challenges that it throws up. I picked that picture because I think there rightly is that expectation that I’m looking at how volunteering becomes a stronger part of everything we do at Diabetes UK.

What I think I do…  I won’t lie – it involves a lot of meetings. No, I mean a LOT of meetings. And a lot of travel. No, I mean… well, you get the point. I’m very lucky that my role is home-based, but it does mean days in the office can often be back-to-back-to-back as you try and shuffle your diary to see people face-to-face where you can. It’s not uncommon to balancing a sandwich and a half-drunk coffee on my laptop as I go from one room to another.

What do I actually do?  It’s been one of those periods where it feels like the 9–5 (ha!) has been dominated by some of the more detailed aspects of my role. As we continue to ensure we have the most appropriate and safest recruitment practices in place when it comes to our volunteers, there are inevitably safeguarding questions that pop up. I’d be surprised to hear of any volunteer manager who couldn’t relate to that. Similarly, when you’re dealing with volunteers’ information you end up having a lot of GDPR conversations.

As hard as we try, we don’t always get things right and my job means I’m the first escalation point for some of the more involved complaints we might receive. I spoke at the AVM conference in November about this – we don’t get a lot of volunteering-related complaints, it’s just the ones that we do get often need more thought and attention and when you get a couple at once it can feel like it’s all you’re doing. Coronavirus is just the icing on the cake. I imagine it’s caught all of us off-guard to a large degree and having to be able to adapt and respond as information changes means it’s a large focus of our time.

This is the most varied and complex job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most rewarding. It’s tough to balance that societal perception that it’s easy (and we’re all working for free) with the difficulties that sometimes come along. It’s also hard to reconcile how quickly and immediately volunteers want or need information with the wider considerations that we need to take into account. Providing a knee-jerk response to one volunteer can feel like we’re providing the best service possible, but sometimes taking a day to think about how one problem (e.g. coronavirus) can affect all your volunteers and putting together a more concerted response is better in the long run. Overall, I think the perception of volunteering is that it’s a never-ending stream of happy, sunny, easily organised events that run seamlessly.  And it often is. But the bits that are hidden are those that often take a huge amount of time and effort, sometimes even just to share what feels like the simplest of messages.

Covid-19 (coronavirus) – where to go for guidance and advice

Updated: 7 April 2020

You’re likely aware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Coronavirus a pandemic.

We know many leaders and managers of volunteers are working hard to manage risk, communications and infrastructure with their volunteers as Coronavirus continues, and are looking for guidance.

Rather than repeating the great advice and guidance already produced, we’re directing people to the relevant advice and guidance for their country.

England: 

Northern Ireland: 

Scotland:

Wales:

These are being updated regularly, they are sharing guidance from other organisations and are adding to it daily. They are good pages to bookmark, and if  you don’t already, we would suggest following them on Twitter. Jayne Craven’s  blog ‘NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW‘ is a good read for anyone looking to develop virtual volunteering opportunities.

What about AVM?

AVM started a conversation on Twitter and will continue to share tips and resources on Twitter, so make sure to also follow AVMTweets and bookmark this discussion #VolMgrChat.

We are facilitating a series of video calls for anyone who works with volunteers. These calls are for people to get together and ask questions, share concerns and what they are doing to support volunteers and volunteering during this crisis. Details are available on our Events page. We are also working to launch a support network for AVM members who are on furlough.

We have launched our first online face in May.  We hope our annual conference in October won’t be affected, but we will need to wait and see. We will provide more information as and when we know.

Our support and offer to members during this challenging time

For AVM members, we have the newly launched AVM BiteSize webcasts, as well as other resources available on this website. 

We intend to launch a virtual randomised coffee trial at the end of March, to connect members to one another for peer support. We are also in the process of bringing forward the launch of our mentoring programme, where members will be able to apply for a mentor from our membership.

How a virtual cuppa could expand your network in 2020

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”

Michele Jennae

AVM members often tell us that networking with other volunteer managers is one of the reasons they join and re-join AVM each year. But we also hear many of you say you find it a challenge to find the time to expand your networks.

AVM has been looking at how we can help members expand their networks and increase connections. This month (January 2020) we are launching Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs), which we hope will help members expand their networks. If successful, we hope to run these again.

What’s a Randomised Coffee Trial?

Developed by Nesta, we first heard about RCTs through NHS Horizons School for Change (read more about them), but they are happening in organisations around the world.

So what are they? They are a simple but powerful way of randomly connecting you with another AVM member to have a conversation. Conversations are a great way to connect and learn from other people. And the great thing about a Randomise Coffee Trial is that you can do these virtually, and the conversation topic isn’t prescribed: you can talk about whatever you want.

“Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.”

Seth Godin
How can you get involved?

If you are interested in pairing up for a RCT, you need to be an AVM member (find out more). All you need to do is complete this simple form by 31 January 2020. In early February we will randomly match you with a partner, and introduce you to each other by email. (If you want to meet someone who is near you, please select your location and we will try to make that match.) 

It’s then over to you to arrange a phone call, a Skype/ Zoom call, a face-to-face meeting: whatever works best for you both. There’s no obligation on you beyond the conversation: it can be a one-off conversation, or the start of something more (we hope it will be the latter).

What should you talk about?

These conversations aren’t prescriptive, you can talk about whatever you want. You can them to find out about one another, your respective job roles, what you are working on now, your challenges or successes: whatever you want!

The most important thing is to be curious, and approach these conversations as a chance to learn more. 

Will they happen again?

In March we’ll ask participants for feedback, to find out what benefits people gained from their conversations. If successful, we’ll aim to run them for AVM members again.


Order your cuppa today (members only)

Fame without fortune

“What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job”

That’s a tough one because volunteer management is probably the most complex job I’ve ever had, and I really don’t know how you begin to describe it, let alone narrow it down to one thing you’d like people to know.

In the end, I’ve plumped for something fairly broad that gives me a bit of leeway (yes that’s cheating, but what of it?) I think the one thing I’d want people to know is that quite a lot of the time it’s like being famous, but without the luxury of the fortune.

Working for a charity means there’s public interest, not only in what you’re doing but how you’re doing it. There are hundreds, thousands or even millions of people out there who are just as passionate – if not more so – about the cause you’re fighting, and they see your organisation as the public vehicle for change. And that makes you fair game to some degree. Or at least I think it brings with it an enhanced level of public accountability for what you’re doing. When you add in a layer of responsibility to a volunteer army there’s an added pressure.

People will (rightly) be quick to tell you when they’ve had a bad experience. In the last few weeks I’ve had messages from volunteers on social media and via email that all boiled down to a sentiment of “do more” or “do better”.

And whilst people should be holding us to account, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure the people who want to help us can do so, the mechanics of how a charity actually works are a mystery to most. I think it’s fair to say nobody who works in volunteering is sat with their feet up or resting on their laurels. It’s more likely that they’re having a swig of lukewarm coffee with a stale sandwich at 3pm for ‘lunch’, or trying not to think about all the time they’re owed that they’ll never get to take.

I’ve had abusive emails when trying to resolve complaints and I’ve been tagged in public messages where people have taken pleasure in hearing about a bad day at work. While I think some of that inevitably comes with the territory, there’s rarely an opportunity to put across context or balance.

I’ve volunteered in a few places (and still do). I think I’ve become more forgiving – or accepting? – about some things, having seen it from both sides of the table. For all the times we try as volunteer managers to get the right information to the right people at the right time, we know it won’t always happen. As volunteer managers, we know that people hate the burden of ‘health and safety gone mad’ and GDPR, and that they definitely don’t volunteer for paperwork. But we still know all those things are important to keep them safe and protected and so we grit our teeth, ask for a form or two, and wait for the backlash.

And whilst it’s short-sighted to equate money with happiness, I’ve always thought that the riches fame can bring probably go some way to offsetting the constant scrutiny that comes from being in the public eye. As volunteer managers, we’re accountable to people who need and rely on us, rather than an adoring fan base, and I think there’s a lot more pressure there then wondering if people will like my new album. (To clarify, I don’t currently have an album coming out myself).

We all want it to be simpler and easier, but we’re often trying to change culture or practice in organisations that have been behind the curve compared to private companies, and don’t have the resources to keep up. It’s also hard for us to talk about that because it feels like we’re making excuses rather than telling the truth. Volunteers and volunteer managers are fighting the same fight – we shouldn’t be fighting each other.

This is the first of our anonymous blogs. The blogs give leaders and managers of volunteering the opportunity to share some of the frustrations and challenges of their role, with the intention of letting readers know they are not alone in facing some of these issues.

If you’d like to write for AVM’s website, drop us a line at [email protected]

Being a Volunteering Manager at a Higher Education Institution (UK)

The post originally appeared on Mariana’s blog. Read the original article.

For months I’ve been thinking about what I should write about and after International Volunteer Managers Day (@IVMDAY) (5th November) I finally realised that there is a specific topic I want to address.

In the UK, Universities and Student Union’s usually have teams that support the provision of extra-curricular activities to students. Those activities often include volunteering and there are specialised teams within Higher Education Institutions (HEI) who do this.

Like every other volunteer manager out there, we do a variety of ‘jobs’, from coordinating volunteers to marketing, advertising, supporting and advising students and colleagues, policy writing, delivering events etc.

The questions that came into my mind after a conversation with Dave Coles (Volunteer Manager at LSE) as we were preparing a session for the AVM were:

  1. Why are we still seen as people who merely copy-paste role descriptions into a platform and promote it to students?
  2. Why are we still seen as the Managers who have ‘an easy job’ because we have a ‘pool of available volunteers’ at any time?
  3. Why are we still seen as the Managers that couldn’t get a job at a charity and have taken a job at a University instead?

So…. 5 points that might be of interest.

1) We do a bit more than just advertising external volunteering opportunities

True… a part of our roles is to advertise opportunities to our students, but that’s not all that we do. We also organise and deliver opportunities ourselves, we are responsible for vetting every volunteer opportunity that is advertised and provide advice about it, if needed. We write volunteering policies, health and safety policies, risk assessments, safeguarding guidelines, training guides etc. We deliver 1–2–1 sessions to hundreds of students, we deliver inductions and training sessions (which can be bespoke to the different courses) and we also provide support and training sessions to our partner organisations to help them engage with our students. The list goes on….

2) We do have an understanding of the third sector

Volunteer Managers working in HEI do have an understanding of how the third sector works and have an idea of some of the issues that charities face. We work very closely with charities on a daily basis and a lot of us have worked for a charity or a not-for-profit organisation before. Some of us still do!

3) We do not have a ‘pot of volunteers’ ready to go

Nops. Sorry. It’s not a thing.

Students sign-up to our volunteering platforms and decide who they want to volunteer with and why. We don’t get to call them and tell them to go volunteer with someone on a specific day and time.

What we do get to do is tell them about the amazing volunteering opportunities and incredible organisations we partner up with and why we believe they should support them.

4) We do this (our job!) because we’ve chosen to (the majority of us anyway)

I can’t speak for all HE and FE Volunteer Managers/Coordinators out there but I do believe that the majority of us have chosen this job, and it’s not just a temporary role until we get ‘that other job at X organisation’.

This is my case anyway.

I love the sector, I love seeing ‘my’ student volunteers engaging in a variety of activities and I honestly can not think of a better job at this point (maybe panda hugger or goat walker but let’s not go there).

5) We focus on the students and their development, and that’s absolutely amazing

I’ve worked for a charity before and have been a volunteer for a variety of other organisations as well and I really do feel that the challenges and focuses between charities and HEIs can be different. Some organisations have to focus on their specific volunteer numbers targets or their fundraising goals. That’s ok and completely understandable! As for me… I get to focus on people. I get to focus on how I can make students’ lives better by engaging in volunteering! And I absolutely love it.

Maybe other HEI do have to report back and have a ‘minimum’ amount of volunteers involved, or a minimum amount of hours volunteered. That’s not my case, thankfully. Thankfully because it allows me to focus on the things I believe are relevant, like their volunteering experience and the communities they’re getting involved with.

I get to talk to students about my love for volunteering, how it’s changed my life and has helped me become the person I am today. I get to talk about how a lot of what I know today was actually learnt during a volunteering experience, how I met some of my closest friends whilst volunteering and how without realising it I was building up my CV and gaining new skills.

Yes. I love volunteering and I love being a Volunteering Manager at a HEI.

Mariana Rocha is Volunteering and Civic Engagement Manager at University of West London.

This post originally appeared on Mariana’s blog. Read the original article.

Being More Pirate: reflections on AVM’s 2019 conference

I have now finished my second month as an Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London). However, I have been working with volunteers for the best part of 4 years in different shapes and forms. Most of my experience has been stewarding groups of volunteers, and in the last year it has taken a more strategic turn.  The most exciting thing about starting at UCL is joining their campaign ‘It’s All Academic’, and being able to contribute to achieving 250,000 alumni volunteer hours. No small feat; so when I was asked if I would like to go to the AVM conference I jumped at the opportunity! The morning of the conference was a busy one. Having not attended an AVM conference I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite knowing a few friendly faces from the volunteering world. While stuck in tube delays Twitter soon diminished any doubts I had, I saw lots of tweets from other volunteer managers who were sharing gifs about their journeys and needing coffee. On arrival I enjoyed maybe a few too many pastries, and had a look around the various stalls. One of my first observations was just how many people from different organisations who were all here for volunteers! All the main stage presentations and panel talks where excellent; however my particular favourite was ‘Be More Pirate’. Alex Barker told us about the golden age of pirates, which was absolutely fascinating, and not just because I am a history nerd! Alex discussed how volunteers can play a pivotal role in challenging and reshaping systems. She drew comparisons between people who are considered do-it-yourselfers, side hustlers, and the Golden Age Pirates. As a new starter in a brand new role this was certainly food for thought! I also thoroughly enjoyed Amira Tharani’s impact and evaluation workshop. Amira’s workshop gave me great insight on where to start when evaluating a project area or programme in such an interactive way. I came out of the workshop armed with new ideas and resources to make those ideas a reality.  Going forward, I am excited to get further involved in AVM and learn everything I can from the fantastic network!

Hannah Kinghorn is Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London)

Collaborating to improve volunteering

The post originally appeared on Lymphoma Action’s website. Read the original post.

Lymphoma Action’s Volunteering Development Manager, Carly, shares why she is part of a team who organise an annual volunteer managers conference.

AVM’s conference planning team at the 2019 conference

This October saw another successful Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) annual conference in London. AVM is a membership organisation that aims to support, represent and champion leaders of volunteering across the UK. Carly, our Volunteering Development Manager, has been part of the conference planning team since 2016, helping to identify a programme of speakers, promoting the conference and coordinating the event on the day.

This year’s conference welcomed over 250 leaders of volunteering, with a jam-packed agenda where attendees explored the future of volunteering, alongside practical tips for recruiting, managing, supporting and empowering volunteers.

By being involved, Carly is able to stay up-to-date and connected with sector news and ideas that will support the development of volunteering at Lymphoma Action, as well as representing the charity and contributing to the learning and development of volunteer managers across the UK.

Following the the launch our new Volunteering Strategy, Carly is reviewing key take aways from the conference to grow our volunteering programme and support our volunteers to make the greatest positive impact for people affected by lymphoma.

“It’s fantastic to collaborate with other volunteer managers to plan the conference and to experience the event as a volunteer manager too. It’s inspiring to hear about the collective impact the voluntary sector is making and to be part of the engaging conversations for developing volunteering in our own organisations.”

Carly, Lymphoma Action

The post originally appeared on Lymphoma Action’s website. Read the original post.

Want to “change the tune” of your volunteer management career? Consider mentoring.

International Volunteer Managers Day is coming (5 November) and this years’ theme is ‘change the tune’. As a Director (volunteer) at the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), the achievement I’m most proud of was setting-up and piloting a mentoring scheme for volunteer managers. I think many mentors and mentees ‘changed their tune’ through participating, so I’m taking this opportunity to tell you a bit about it…

What did the scheme look like?

We launched the scheme in January 2019. Twenty AVM members volunteered, half of them as mentors, half as mentees. The scheme took place entirely online, enabling volunteer managers all over the UK to participate. We delivered webinars introducing the scheme and ran an online “speed-networking” event through Zoom. Then we set up a Slack group, helping the group to break the ice and get to know each other.

Mentors and mentees self-matched, and although some reported this bit as being a little tricky (one mentee described the feeling as being like a teenager trying to get a teacher to like her..!) on the whole, the self-matching approach was well received, with comments including:

“I felt it was really important for the mentors/ mentees to match themselves, and in fact more so for the mentees to seek out what they are looking for. A bit like the Bumble dating app, its putting the ‘power’ of the relationship where it needs to be, for them its with women, for us its with the mentees.” – Jenny Betteridge, Strategic Lead Volunteering, Sport England (mentor)

Did mentoring change anyone’s’ tune?

Generally, feedback was really positive, from both mentors and mentees. 100% of survey participants said they were extremely or very satisfied with the scheme, and all said they would recommend it to others. The majority of participants said the scheme had helped them to progress in their career, and several of the mentees said having a mentor had helped them to find a new role:

“My mentor helped build my confidence, drive and motivation to find a new role” – Mentee, anonymous

“I was transitioning in to line-management at the time of the scheme and I would say this mentor relationship had a direct (and positive) impact on how I approached this…” – Calleigh-Marie Lawrence, Volunteer Support Executive, The Charity for Civil Servants (mentee)

Almost all mentors and mentees said they felt being part of this scheme had created a sense of being part of a strong volunteer management community of practice, or a place for mutual learning:

“My experience has been totally positive. My mentor has vastly more experience than me in Volunteer Management but we both have the same challenges.” – David Little, Volunteer Coordinator at Carlisle Carers (mentee)

“the ‘mentor/mentee’ relationship can and should switch – plenty to be learned down what can be a two-way street” – Shaun Crummey, Head of Volunteering, Absolutely Cultured (mentor)

…and both mentors and mentees said participating in the scheme had improved their leadership and management skills:

“It was a huge learning curve in what it means to be a manager…I learned a lot about my strengths” – Mentee, anonymous

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor. I got to work with someone whose experience gave me new insights into the current workplace. Their challenges made me think in new ways about the best way to support them as they found their own solutions. I’d definitely do it again and would encourage others to mentor a colleague as well.” – Rob Jackson, Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd (mentor)

Benefits also extended to employers, with one mentor commenting:

“My employer is supportive and mentoring meetings have been part of my working hours. Certainly viewed as part of my CPD.” – Damian Sherwood-Johnson, Volunteer Development Coordinator, Sistema Scotland (mentor)

The scheme ran for six months, and although AVM’s involvement has now ended, many of the pairs have continued their relationship. That’s one of the great things about mentoring – it often out-lasts schemes or jobs.

So, I think mentoring is a great way to change your volunteer management tune, both for mentors and mentees. I speak from personal experience too: in setting up this scheme I’ve found my own mentor, and I also mentor another volunteer manager. I find both relationships incredibly valuable.

AVM has changed its tune too: although providing a mentoring scheme has been a goal of AVM’s for a long time, now, we’ve turned that goal into reality.  We’ve also got better at delivering services online/ avoiding the London-focus – watch this space for much more of that.

So, if you are a volunteer manager and you want to change your tune, give mentoring a go! AVM plans to develop the scheme in 2020. It’s open to all AVM members. If you’d like to participate, you can register your interest on our website.

Angela Wilson is a former Director at the Association of Volunteer Managers and Head of Volunteering at MS Society. Follow her on Twitter: @Angelawilson__

This post originally appeared on Inside Government’s website.

Find out more about AVM’s mentoring scheme

AVM members can join our mentoring scheme, either as a mentee or mentor. Find out more about the scheme and sign up.

If you’d like to be a mentor and are not currently an AVM member, find out how to join AVM.